Medical Family Therapy in Disaster Preparedness and Trauma-Response Teams

  • Tai Mendenhall
  • Jonathan Bundt
  • Cigdem Yumbul
Part of the Focused Issues in Family Therapy book series (FIFT)


Attention to mental health in disaster preparedness and trauma-response teams has increased considerably over the last decade. From the formal development and expansion of stand-alone teams and those positioned within existing care structures to the integration of Psychological First Aid (PFA) as part of standard education and preparation for first responders (e.g., police officers, firefighters), behavioral health clinicians (e.g., psychology, social work), and biomedical providers (e.g., emergency medicine, family medicine), it is clear that what once was a subspecialty advanced by a small collection of practitioners has now evolved to a mainstream standing within the broader arenas of the helping professions.


Glossary of Important Terms in Disaster Response

After action report (AAR)

A retrospective analysis regarding a simulated or actual disaster response sequence. Key content generally includes a summary and overview of the response, major strengths and successes of the effort, key weaknesses and lessons learned, and recommendations for improvement.

Family Assistance Center (FAC)

A site set up to provide resources and support for families affected by a disaster. Principal goals include facilitating effective communication about evolving events, exchanging information with appropriate personnel to assist in identifying missing or deceased loved ones, providing death notifications (and discussions with medical examiners regarding the release of human remains), providing private spaces for families to grieve, protection from media and/or curiosity seekers, and offering medical, psychological, and/or logistical support.

Just-in-time training (JIT)

A collection of online or app-based resources designed to train (or refresh knowledge of) responders rapidly. These resources are generally employed immediately after a disaster has occurred, during which time responders are preparing for—or awaiting directions relevant to—deployment.

Nongovernmental organization (NGO)

A nonprofit organization involved in a disaster response that is independent from state, federal, or international governance. NGOs are usually funded by donations and run by volunteers.

Point of contact (POC)

Identified supervisor to whom a person involved in a disaster response reports with relevant updates, field reports, troubleshooting, and questions. The POC directs personnel under his or her watch regarding indicated tasks, duties, and responsibilities.

Tabletop exercise (TTX)

During trainings and/or simulations, TTXs involve key and indicated personnel discussing how to best respond to hypothetical scenarios. These sequences facilitate understanding regarding the viability and adequacy of plans and procedures vis-à-vis extant resources. They also serve to establish and promote collaborative relationships and agreements between agency leads that can be utilized during an actual incident.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Family Social ScienceUniversity of MinnesotaSaint PaulUSA
  2. 2.Masa ConsultingMinnetonkaUSA

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